Polio was a feared disease in the early and mid-1900s. The crippling disease had disabled Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. But, even more so, polio was epidemic among children (who saw the lion share of the cases). In 1952 there were 58,000 new cases of poliomyelitis (with 3000 deaths). The worst part was polio was a virus. Consequently, quarantines were common, as well as a device known as the “iron lung” (to help respiration).
Enter Jonas Salk.
In March of 1953, Dr. Salk announced he had cracked the code to an “anti-polio” vaccine. A year later, on this date in 1954, the first shot of polio vaccine was administered in a series of clinical trials. In 1955, the vaccine was considered safe and children were openly inoculated. Studies showed Salk’s vaccine was four times as effective in preventing polio. Consequently, within just two years the cases were down to 6000 annually.
In 1962 a Polish-American named Al Sabin developed an oral vaccine that was routinely administered in a sugar cube. For the Television, Space and Gamer generations (born between 1940 and 1980), Salk’s vaccine eradicated the dreadful disease of polio. Today, only a handful of children are stricken with its crippling and deadly grip.
It’s one of the most, if not most successful, wholesale vaccinations against a virus in the history of mankind.